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By WILLIAM GLABERSON
In one of the more puzzling cases to emerge from the Sept. 11 investigation, a federal judge in Brooklyn imposed a six-month jail sentence yesterday on an Egyptian man who entered the country with a fake pilot's uniform in his luggage.
After a trial last month, the Egyptian, Wael Abdel Rahman Kishk, 21, was convicted of lying to federal officials about whether he planned to take flying lessons in this country. He has never been charged with terrorism.
In imposing the sentence, the judge, Charles P. Sifton, rejected a prosecution request for a longer sentence and said the prosecutors were seeking to punish the man for suspected terrorist ties that they did not prove.
"It will not do to prosecute people for a minor crime," Judge Sifton said, "and then ask us to punish them based on some suspicion that they may have committed some more serious offense."
Speaking through an interpreter yesterday, Mr. Kishk complained about what he said had been harsh treatment in solitary confinement, including constant light and a lack of exercise that he said had caused psychological problems. He was brought to court in a wheelchair and remained seated, gazing downward, as he addressed the judge.
"Mr. Kishk has been wrecked by this experience," said his lawyer, Michael K. Schneider.
Mr. Kishk was arrested on Sept. 19 at Kennedy Airport, after a fake Egyptian pilot's uniform, phony documents identifying him as a pilot and a forged certificate from a Florida flight school were found in his luggage.
He told federal agents he had come to the United States to study business administration, not aviation. But the investigators discovered that he had applied for flight training at a community college in Washington State.
Mr. Kishk had also lived for part of 2000 in Daytona Beach, Fla., the area where some of the hijackers had lived.
For a time officials feared Mr. Kishk might have been part of a second wave of terrorism but they did not produce proof of any terrorist ties. The assistant United States attorney in charge of the case, Dwight C. Holton, said yesterday that the investigation into Mr. Kishk was continuing.
Prosecutors said Mr. Kishk's efforts to explain away their suspicions only heightened their concerns. Mr. Kishk said, for example, that he carried the replica of a pilot's shirt to impress his friends but insisted that he had never worn it.
In an e-mail message to a flight school in August 2000, he said, "I have to start flying next semester because of many reasons."
Detained since his arrest, he will complete his sentence next month. He is then expected to be deported.
Judge Sifton said there were two possible explanations as to why Mr. Kishk lied about his plan to go to flight school. One explanation, the judge said, was that Mr. Kishk had some malicious plan. The other, the judge said, was that his lies "were simply a foolish reaction by a young man" caught in one of the biggest investigations in American history.
The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
20 May 2006
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